UNT-A&M cancel

North Texas could face a significant financial hit after the SEC called off its nonconference football slate on Thursday. 

North Texas lost a game off its 2020 football schedule on Thursday when the Southeastern Conference announced that it would play only conference games this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNT was set to play at Texas A&M on Sept. 12.

The question now is how much money UNT’s athletic program will lose along with the game. UNT was set to receive a $1.25 million guarantee for playing at Kyle Field.

The contract obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle contains multiple clauses related to the financial impact of canceling the game.

The buyout clause calls for the team that backs out of the contract to pay a $1 million penalty. The deal also contains a clause that addresses the possibility of an unforeseen event that would release either team from the guarantee.

Wren Baker mug

Wren Baker

“Neither party will be responsible to the other for losses resulting from the failure to perform any term or provisions of this agreement, if the party’s failure to perform is attributed to acts of war, riot, strike, civil disorder, or other work stoppage, fire, flood, acts of God or any other event not within the control of the party whose performance is interfered with, and which, by reasonable diligence, such party is unable to prevent,” the contract reads.

The question now is if the pandemic fits that clause, thus releasing Texas A&M from the provisions of the deal.

Multiple UNT officials declined to comment on the financial fallout of the game being canceled.

Former UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal signed the school’s deal with Texas A&M in the spring of 2015. Wren Baker took over as UNT’s athletic director in the summer of 2016.

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork spoke with Baker on Thursday.

“I appreciate Ross Bjork reaching out personally this afternoon to inform me of the SEC’s decision to play conference football games only,” Baker said in a statement shortly after the SEC announced its decision. “We have been preparing to play a full schedule, and I’m disappointed for our student-athletes and fans to lose the opportunity at Texas A&M. We are excited about this season and will continue to keep our fans updated as our plans evolve.”

Losing either the $1.25 million guarantee or the $1 million buyout would be a significant blow for UNT. The school has an athletic budget of approximately $40 million and has already been hit hard financially by the pandemic.

The NCAA was forced to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as spring sports, earlier this year.

Baker estimated UNT’s financial losses could reach $2.5 million from the cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and spring sports alone. He estimated that losing football season would result in another $5 million hit.

UNT still has three nonconference games on its schedule, including its season-opener against Houston Baptist of the Southland on Sept. 5. The Mean Green are also set to host SMU on Sept. 19 at Apogee Stadium and travel to Houston on Sept. 26. Both SMU and Houston are members of the American Athletic Conference.

UNT is a member of Conference USA. The league has multiple teams that have lost games due to conferences canceling the nonconference portions of their seasons.

UTSA was scheduled to open the season at LSU, while Southern Miss was set to face Auburn on Sept. 26. Both LSU and Auburn are members of the SEC.

The SWAC canceled its fall sports season on July 20, wiping out another series of games, including Louisiana Tech’s home game on Sept. 19 against Prairie View A&M.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled nonconference play earlier this month.

C-USA has yet to announce any decisions altering its fall sports schedule as it has seen the number of games its teams are set to play dwindle.

“We are continuing to discuss with our membership, but no decisions have been made,” Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement provided to the Denton Record-Chronicle on July 9, shortly after the Big Ten and Pac-12 called off nonconference play. “We are receiving advice from medical experts and examining all options.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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